Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays players ready to embrace veterans Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon

TAMPA — The expected additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will require some strategizing among the Rays.

Manager Joe Maddon, for example, will undoubtedly consider multiple permutations before deciding on how high in the order to hit Damon and whether to slot Ramirez in the cleanup hole with Evan Longoria third or drop them both a spot.

Outfielder Matt Joyce is weighing a different question: whether to ask home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland for a locker next to Ramirez to better enjoy the anticipated show or to keep a safe distance. Also, whether to get a Manny-style dreadlocks wig and wear it on the field or wait to see if there's a Dress Like Manny road trip.

"You never know what he's going to come up with next," Joyce said. "That's the great thing about Manny; he brings something new to the field and he makes it exciting and fun and fresh. So we're going to have fun with it. And that's what the Rays love to do."

As a half-dozen Rays (plus senior adviser Don Zimmer and former teammates Matt Garza and Toby Hall) gathered at Splitsville on Monday night for B.J. Upton's charity bowling event to benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the common theme was that they expect Ramirez and, to only a slightly lesser degree, Damon to add a lot — though they're not exactly sure what — to their club and their clubhouse.

"We'll see," pitcher David Price said. "I guess it's Manny being Manny — I don't know. I feel like he'll fit in just fine in our locker room."

"I think they're going to fit in great," Upton said. "Obviously Manny's a lot of fun, and from what I hear, Johnny Damon is the same way, and that fits right in our clubhouse and our style of play. We want to have fun … and with those two guys in the clubhouse, it's going to be a lot of fun this year."

The two veterans, whose signings aren't expected to be finalized and announced until next week, will be welcomed primarily for the boost they'll provide the offense. Ramirez's .870 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages), even in a down 2010 season, was better than all Rays but Longoria (.879), and Damon's .355 on-base percentage was one point lower than Carl Crawford, whom he will be replacing in leftfield.

But they'll also be welcomed for the leadership they can provide, after the loss of Carlos Peña, Crawford and other veterans among the 11 players who have left the team since the end of the season.

"It kinda reminds me a little bit of '08 — you bring two veterans in (Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske then) that could just change the whole complexion of the clubhouse," Upton said. "I think we have a good idea of what they're going to do on the field, but I think the biggest thing for us is having so many young guys and bringing in two guys of their stature, guys that have played in the AL East for so long, to have Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez in our clubhouse I think is great for our ballclub."

Upton has had a special spot for Ramirez since making his Aug. 2, 2004, major-league debut as a 19-year-old, when, playing shortstop, he snagged a Ramirez line drive and after the game found Ramirez's bat, autographed, waiting in his locker. Price recalls fondly how Damon was the first established big-league opponent to introduce himself during a spring 2008 game.

And he said you just had to see the texts he got from other Rays to know how excited they are to have the two veterans as teammates.

"Good for them," said Garza, who was traded to the Cubs. "Whatever helps. I was like, 'Man, we couldn't get them last year?' "

Marc Topkin can reached at [email protected]

Tampa Bay Rays players ready to embrace veterans Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon 01/24/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 24, 2011 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start


    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'


    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.